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Monday, March 21, 2011

A Chicago-based high school teams up with an FFA chapter to study biofuels


Agriculture students from Mendota have found some friends in the big city, thanks to some old fry grease.

Both the Mendota High School FFA Chapter and the Whitney Young Magnet High School Biodiesel Club are interested in producing and promoting renewable fuels made from used cooking oil.

WYMHS math teacher/biodiesel club sponsor Brian Sievers said the five members of the WYMHS Biodiesel Club built a biodiesel processor and had enough materials left to build a second one. And the students wanted to share one with a school that didn't have access to as many resources, he said.

And so the first student-to-student exchange between the club and the Mendota FFA chapter was set for March 4.

The Mendota FFA chapter had considered building a biodiesel processor and now not only will gain a system but also expertise from fellow high school students through the exchange.

"It will be a great experience for our kids to see their research and hear their perspective," said Jeff Landers, Mendota High School ag teacher and adviser to the 70-member FFA chapter. "Our students are very excited about this opportunity."

Landers plans to integrate the biodiesel processor into his agriscience classes and the biodiesel use into his ag mechanics classes.

FFA chapter members will use the biodiesel in farm equipment used on their 18-acre land lab, where they grow corn, soybeans, pumpkins, squash and gourds.

The Whitney Young club collected used cooking oil, built one biodiesel processor and produced biodiesel. Club members tested the emissions of their fuel at an Illinois Department of Transportation vehicle testing facility in Chicago.

At the same facility, they conducted tests that compared a vehicle's performance on diesel with the biodiesel they made from new oil and used cooking oil.

The students reported the biodiesel reduced emissions by about 80 percent when compared to using diesel in the same vehicle.

Want to find out more about biofuels? Visit the National Renewable Energy Laboratory website.

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